Our Resident Entomologist Talks Termites With A Newbie

TermitesAs a new employee on the Rentokil Initial Graduate scheme, I have been intrigued to learn just how varied the pests are that Rentokil treat. So I was pleased to find out that in my first two weeks, which comprised of meeting the wider team, attending a Marketing Community Meeting, as well as a full and comprehensive induction programme, I would also be taken on a tour of the company’s European Technical Centre. After a very interesting and enlightening tour of the ETC, I was fortunate enough to sit down with our resident entomologist Matt Green for a few minutes to ask him some questions about one of his many speciality subjects: termites. Here’s how things panned out…

Q. So what sparked your interest of insects Matt?
A. It was a progression from studying. I studied biology in University and specialised in animal biology. I then progressed on to a post grad in Entomology as insects were what really captivated my interest and I felt I had a good understanding of them.

Q. Here in the UK, we don’t hear of many termite cases. Where and under what conditions are they most prevalent?
A. Geographically speaking termites are generally found in tropical and temperate zones. However, outside these zones where there is a suitable supply of timber, and the humidity is correct for them to reproduce, termites can be found, e.g. USA where buildings tend to have timber frames so termite control is critical.

Q. Are termites able to travel long distances?
A. There is currently an on-going case on the English coast down at Devon. Termites were brought in on shipments of wine crates, and as a result set up a population. They are only likely to be transported if the wood they have infested is moved.

Q. Technically speaking then, if my neighbour has termites, is there a chance that I will get termites?
A. If your home is built of the correct wood, and the temperature / rainfall / humidity was suitable for them, then yes your home would be susceptible to a termite infestation. But here in the UK these conditions are highly unlikely to be found! You’re more likely to be at risk when you live in a tropical region such as Brazil.

Q. What is the worst case scenario if a home is infested with termites?
A. It’s not pleasant I can tell you . Any suitable, readily available wood will be consumed. It’s not uncommon to see houses that have been stripped bare by termites. They can completely destroy a home in 2-3 years!

Q. So we’ve established that termites are definitely not a welcome visitor in your home! Do you think that treatment of termites will always be reactive? Or is it possible to stop termites through preventative measures?
A. It’s totally possible to ‘design out’ termites from new buildings as long as their presence is taken into account at the planning and design stages. Whether the client or the architects involved are happy to make the compromises required to reduce the risk of attack is an entirely different matter. Once a house has been built in a termite zone, good access to the areas where termites might make their entry (sub-floors, sub-basements ground/wall junctions) should be encouraged. Removing fallen or dead trees from the site and routinely checking high risk areas should also significantly reduce the risk of attack.

Q. Finally, as we are currently reviewing where all future pest control products are created, where do you think the future of pest control lies?
A. We are already seeing a move away from conventional pesticides and insecticides. We can already see the application of dry heat and controlled atmosphere technology to control infestations. I believe that there will also be a move towards the use of organisms to control organisms. For example, there are already trials using a kind of wasp to control mosquitoes, which could bring about a reduction in malaria. The future for pest control will most definitely be moving towards preparation and prevention rather than reactive treatment

This is the first of many (or at least Alicia and Danusia hope it is the first of many!) interviews of colleagues throughout my various placements across Rentokil Initial. This way you can find out a little bit more about the different activities the Divisions are involved in across our multi-faceted business.

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